INTERVIEW: Monster Island

Monster Island

On a pleasant late June evening I sat down with Stephen, Wes and Lewis of Manchester band Monster Island in the garden of the Windmill in Brixton before they headlined Damnably’s Summer All-Dayer. Having reviewed both their previous LPs for God is in the TV I was undoubtedly eager to hear their new record, and had finally had a chat with the trio when my band played a show with them in March, so hearing they would be back in London for another show it was a good opportunity to discuss the upcoming album ‘Cathedral Steps’ and have a bit of banter, hence the slightly indulgent length of this interview…

GIITTV: To start at the chronological beginning, how did Monster Island get started? If you can define that.

Stephen: Erm, right, us three were in another band quite a few years ago and there were sort of like two songwriters in it, myself and another guy called Tom, but we have got quite different tastes in music and it got to a point where we’d have set that was half my song and half his songs and it was like ridiculously different. So, what we decided to do was to split it into two seperate bands, one of them was Monster Island and the other was Foglights, and after about a year he decided to quit Monster Island and Foglights pretty much ended… So, that was about 2007 when Monster Island first started. Er, yeah, wild journey. (Laughter) Sorry, it’s a shit story.

GIITTV: No drama, no heartbreak.

Wes: The old band got broken up in a very civil, polite conversation in a pub in Darwen.

GIITTV: So, you didn’t split like certain members went one way, certain members went the other…

Stephen: Yeah, yeah, no it was the exact same band.

Wes: It was strange for a bit, it was like a year that went on, or maybe a bit less.

Stephen: There was one website called Manchester Music and they reviewed the Foglights and they liked them, they put them on at Hard Rock Cafe, and they already knew us and we were just like “Are you allright John?” and he said “Oh, you allright, Monster Island.” and I was like “No, we’re actually Foglights.” And he was like, “Oh, right, ok.”

Wes: Yeah, it was a bit weird. But we did one album when we had Thomas in the band.

Stephen: But he didn’t play bass on it.

Wes: No. You did it.

Stephen: It was just mates helping each other out at the end of the day, I think me and Wes were more into one (band) than the other.

GIITTV: So, what were your musical influences growing up and growing towards Monster Island?

Stephen: When I was 12 or 13 I just into, like, Oasis and then Radiohead, Nirvana and stuff. But then, like, growing up, a bit more to like 18, got into Pavement and The Fall and The Smiths and Joy Division and all that.

GIIITTV: How far along is the third record at the moment?

Stephen: We recorded 11 songs for it, I think, well…

Wes: We’ve got 2 left to do.

Stephen: Fully recorded 7 songs, and then we’ve got 4 to do drums and bass.

GIITTV: When you start thinking ‘Ok, we’re doing an LP’ are there songs that are pre-assigned to it or…

Stephen: Yeah, kind of, but then we end up changing completely, ’cause you have an idea of what it’s going to be like, but then you realise when you play the songs as a band you have to promote another song into the running or whatever. But, yeah, we always have sort of a vague idea of how it’s gonna work. But, it’s been like two years since the last album.

Wes: We did the EP inbetween, mind.

Stephen: Yeah, ’cause that EP was originally meant to be for a label, cause they’d heard The Anchor, and wanted to do something based on that, but we anted to do something brand new, but then they got the EP and it wasn’t quite what they were expecting. But everything we’ve ever recorded we’ve just put out ourselves for free, not because we don’t want to make any money, because that’d be nice, but it’s more likely that people will listen to your stuff if it’s for free. Don’t know if that devalues it?

Wes: Nah, you just want to get your stuff played, it’s no good sitting there on bandcamp for 5 quid a download if no one goes on it.

Stephen: Yeah, exactly. I’d rather like a hundred people listened to it for nothing than 10 people and we made, like, 50 quid or something.

GIITTV: How does it go, that you’ve got a song idea as in lyrics first or music first?

Stephen: It’s usually like the two in tandem and come together, so that you’re writing lyrics and music and suddenly you realise that that fits with that.

GIITTV: Do you still blog the lyrics?

Sephen: Yeah, yeah on the MySpace?

Wes: No, on the blogspot.

Stephen: Oh yeah, I sort of stopped doing that, because after about two years we had about three followers, so it’s not really worth it anymore. But, yeah, I was doing that for ages, and some of those songs on there are like two years old but we’re only just recording them now.

GIITTV: So, some of that’s going to be on the new record?

Stephen: Yeah, they were all written just after the last album, but it’s taken us til now to actually get around to doing it, cause for a long time we were practicing in Lewis’ basement. Which isn’t really ideal for constantly recording or anything, we’d just annoy the neighbours and stuff and all that. So, we got a permanent rehearsal room out in one of the worst bits of Manchester, we were in there three years ago, but it got broken into and loads of band’s gear got stolen, but for some reason we decided to go back.

GIITTV: They must have upped their security by now?

Stephen: Yeah, supposedly, so…

Lewis: Sitting there with an axe when it happened.

Stephen: He was what?

Wes: Guarding the place.

Stephen: That was insane, that. He rang to tell me that stuff had got nicked, and he was down at the Mill, and he was like “Oh, I got to go someone’s coming in!” That was messed up.

GIITTV: What’s the music scene like in Manchester?

Wes: There’s a lot of bands, isn’t there? But, I wouldn’t say there’s that many good ones. There’s a few little clics, like trendy sort of, like… I don’t know whether I should be name-dropping bands.

Stephen: The following bands are shit. If you look at like NME or something you’d think that Manchester was like Seattle in 1990 or something, but it’s all right, most of the bands that are getting really heavily written about don’t really care. I mean, it’s like with anything, the most mainstream bands tend to get a lot of promotion and that’s just a small picture of the whole scene, but it’s allright…

Wes: You never struggle for a gig, I just think it’s a bit saturated maybe, you can go to loads but it’s just so poorly attended, and the quality of the bands sometimes is just not as great.

Stephen: I think a good thing about it is there’s a lot of young kids making music…

GIITTV: There’s always something new coming along?

Stephen: Yeah, I think so, which wasn’t always the case, maybe for a period of 5 years it was like this established sort of Manchester scene bands just playing all the time, and now there’s like dozens of bands and they’re all quite young and their influenced by more recent music, so I think it’s allright, I wouldn’t like dismiss it or something. Do you know about like, Wu-Lyf? The sort of massively hyped band in Manchester at the moment, they did sort of this, er, anti-marketing campaign where, erm, they booked gigs and they’d just no-show them.

Lewis: The demo, they made 10 copies and put it on eBay for £50 so it was the only way you could get it.

Stephen: And all this, and the press just like lapped it up.

Lewis: It was some big marketing man.

Stephen: Yeah, yeah, turned out it was like some svengali, this guy who owned a coffee shop in Manchester works for this massive marketing agency and this must be like his little pet project. But they’re right good, they got in Pitchfork and got 8.5.

Lewis: There was a bit in the Guardian about them.

Stephen: Yeah, they’re properly hyped and everything, I think they’re like ‘the big boys’.

Wes: What about Cats In Paris, they just disappeared.

Lewis: They’ve got about a bit, they’ve got a record deal.

Wes: Who?

Lewis: Dutch Uncles. They’ve been touring and stuff.

Stephen: So, you’ve got bands that just come and go and you’ve got the ones who just churn it out relentlessly, forever… and we probably fit into that group.

Wes: The grimy side of it.

Monster Island circa 2009GIITTV: Yeah, but you’re happy with that aspect of it, you don’t crave stadium success…

Stephen: Oh no, it’s a bit frustrating sometimes when, y’know, you’re struggling to get a gig because you’re not a brand new band or if you do play no one comes.

Lewis: Still enjoy it, ay?

Wes: Yeah, that’s what it’s about, and do a really good record and get as many people to listen to as you can, really.

Lewis: And have these little fun jaunts down to London. It’s all about the jaunts.

GIITTV: Yeah, you seem to make a lot of ‘jaunts’.

Wes: Yesterday was the first gig we’ve played in Manchester since…

Stephen: It wasn’t in Manchester.

Wes: Yeah, it was in Salford.

Stephen: We haven’t played in Manchester so far this year. We’ve played 7 gigs and not one in Manchester; Edinburgh, London, Wigan, Salford…

Wes: Two in London.

Stephen: All the glamour. I mean, it’s better to travel and play, because if you’re a Manchester band you sort of get treated like shit in Manchester, no one cares, and then you go somewhere else and it’s like a novelty so they sort of appreciate you a bit more.

Lewis: Especially if you’ve travlled a fair whack as well.

GIITTV: That’s what you should put on the posters: ‘They’ve travlled 85 miles to be here.’

Stephen: We should get George (from Damnably Records) to do that tonight, “And now, all the way from Manchester, England!” I can totally see him doing that.

GIITTV: So, what inspires your songs, because like lyrically, to me, it feels like there’s so much in there that I can’t process, I don’t know what’s… I mean, I can see it ‘my way’ and apply what frustrates me to it, I feel like they’re good cathartic kind of outpourings and what goes into your… er… the songs.

Stephen: I think part of it, a lot of it is just working in something like marketing you hear all these little phrases, like stupid phrases, that are used every day like fucking ‘touching base’, I haven’t actually used that in a song, I’m going to write a song called ‘Touching Base.’ It’ll just be a bass solo.

Lewis: (Laughing, pointing his hand back and forth) Just with one finger.

Stephen: Shit like that, ’cause, y’know, you just come into contact with a lot of strange characters and a very strange culture in marketing so writing about that, just like Manchester, buildings and urban environment and all that, then just taking that and trying to make it slightly poetic. Like, make it all sound nice.

GIITTV: With the songs on the third album, would you say there’s something generally that they’re about?

Stephen: It’s probably a bit more varied than the other albums, which were just about buildings and work. There’s a bit more surreal stuff going on, there’s one song about pop stars, sort of trying to twist and make this strange…

Wes: Is this Sean Bean (Cooked & Et on the new LP – Sean Bean was Wesley and Lewis’s name for it – Stephen has no idea why) ? Which you dedicated, you said it was about Lady Gaga’s throbbing gentials.

Stephen: Oh yeah, that was in front of the all female collective we were playing with, Womb. I’m trying to think what’s actually on it? What songs have we recorded?

Wes: Eunuch Music.

Stephen: Yeah, and there’s one about people who like dereliction and urban decay in a fetishy kind of way, when, in reality, it’s actually shit to live somewhere that is a shit hole. So, to glamourize it in any way is trite. All these crappy old buildings that look horrible and should be pulled down.

GIITTV: People are going to tolerate what they’ve got and find beauty in it when there probably actually isn’t any.

Stephen: Yeah, yeah, this particular flyover thing literally cuts these inner-city areas right out of the city centre and leads to like the most poor areas in Manchester because they’re disconnected, glamourizing something like that is just in bad taste… and then I wrote one song about twee folk.

GIITTV: Twee folk. Glockenspiels and that…

Wes: Cats and things.

Stephen: Songs about cats.

Wes: Fluffy clothes. Badly played as well, generally.

Stephen: “This is a poem about my cat.” Wasn’t even a good poem about a cat.

Wes: See, we’re quite horrible people really.

Stephen: I try and be nice in my day to day life, so I can just be horrible through music. I’m spineless like that.

GIITTV: Two years since the last record, so has a lot of the new stuff been brewing up, stuff you’re thinking; ‘This is the next record.’

Stephen: Yeah, absolutely.

GIITTV: Are you worried it’s going to be another two years?

Stephen: Definitely, yeah, I mean, probably the reason we didn’t put anything out last year was because we were putting everything into this EP that was going to be through a label and never came out, probably would have made the album last year.

Wes: Well, we were going to do the album weren’t we and then…

Stephen: Yeah, the EP started off, it had already started being recorded before this EP business came about, but then we focused on doing these five songs for The Green Room, so all these songs are like backing up and it’d be quite nice to just start with a blank canvas I think. I think the good thing about this next album, I think it’s really representative of since Lewis joined the band, we’ve got a lot better as musicians, the first two are quite amateurish…

Wes: They’re innocent. We didn’t really know what we were doing in the recording space.

Stephen: I think we’ve come on a lot in the last two years and I think the new songs show
that quite a lot.

Wes: I think the thing about the EP, and it’s almost a blessing in a way, and especially with us playing them live and playing new songs as well, it sounds a bit different to what maybe the album’s going to sound like, it’s a nice little stop gap there.

Stephen: The first two albums as well were recorded bit by bit, so like drums, then bass, then guitar and vocals, where with these ones a lot of them we’ve been recording live. So you get that proper live feel. We played Edinburgh a couple of months ago and the promoter all he said to us afterwards was; “Yeah it was allright, a bit louder than I expected.” and that was his only comment. So, obviously people listen to the songs and have this idea of what it’s going to sound like and then you play live and it’s sort of like… (Takes a deep, slow in take of air)

Wes: It’s the live attitude though, when we record the album you make a conscious effort to play it a bit slower and get it a bit more songified, rather than being a bit full on raucous sort of thing.

GIITTV: So you’ve ‘liveified’ the new record.

Wes: I think so.

Stephen: One of the parts of recording is just adding in all the random stuff afterwards and playing around a lot, I think this record probably has less of that.

GIITTV: (To Lewis) So, how were you coaxed into… how long have you been in the band for?

Lewis: (Joking) Two weeks…

Wes: How did we coax you? A packet of Maltesers.

Lewis: I think I’d just moved to Manchester and you were like; ‘Do you wanna play bass?’ So I said yeah. That was it, well, I played in The Flood when I was like 18 in Preston.

Stephen: Yeah, then quit, because it was all too much.

Wes: (Laughing) Tense.

Lewis: There was definite attitude. It was weird. (Laughs) Yeah, but it was 2007, September, when I talked to you… didn’t take much coaxing I’m sure. It’s been allright since then.

GIITTV: Daily coaxing.

Stephen: We treat you allright. We’ve known each other for like seven years or something.

Lewis: I remember the first time you played at, well, that I’d seen you at the Mitre really.

Stephen: Well, Lewis was in a band back in Preston, and we were from Darwen and Blackburn, no venues, the nearest place to play was Preston, so we started playing around there and Lewis’ band Inside The Black Square were dead good. Then you left and then…
Stephen & Lewis: …they got even better.

Wes: I’ve always been in a band with Stephen.

Stephen: Me and Wes have played together for nine or ten years.

Lewis: Fuckin’ Hell.

Stephen: Well, me and Wes have known each other since we were 11. I think it’s time we moved on, mate.

GIITTV: You’ve got to divide again, you’re like cells.

Wes: Well you’re in another band, you are as well…

Lewis: (To Wes) You’ve got your solo thing (My Shepherd Mouse).

Stephen: See, I’m in my other band under duress.

Lewis: My other band might not ever play a gig.

Wes: Keep yourself busy though.

GIITTV: So, once this album’s finally done and dusted, do you have a plan for it or just move onto the next thing as soon as possible?

Stephen: I don’t know really, we’d like to give it a go and do a few gigs around the time, I mean, you talk about tours and stuff but in my experience it’s been a bit of a futile exercise and you lose loads of money and spend two weeks playing to no one. I think it’s better to get maybe three gigs around the time, like London, Manchester and somewhere else. Make sure it’s a good show and that. I don’t know if we’re put it out ourselves or what, we’ve been talking to this other Manchester label and stuff, well, Salford label. There were keen to put it out. Might try and do another video. Yeah, have you seen the…?

GIITTV: I’ve seen The Green Room video.

Stephen: Yeah, what did you think of that?

GIITTV: It’s peculiar.

Wes: (Laughing) It was good fun though recording that.

GIITTV: What was the approach to it?

Wes: Eating apples… Hacky sack and you wanted…

Stephen: Paedophiles. The three, the Holy Trinity.

GIITTV: “I’ve got to bring these things together.” Is that from the song or is that unrelated… interests?
Stephen: Well, he (Wes) likes apples, he (Lewis) likes hacky sack… and, er, y’know, we’ve all done things we’re not proud of. (Quietly) Oh dear.

GIITTV: I’ll cut this out. It’s incriminating.

Wes: That could be the headline to it?

GIITTV: Paedo Island. Alternative album name and new ITV show.

Stephen: Maybe that’s what we need to launch the album, like a reality TV show? Yeah, just before that video went on the internet I’d been made Godfather to my girlfriend’s sister’s children and then they saw that video and I think they probably regretted it. I don’t think they realised that wasn’t a documentary. It was a piece of art. It was good fun making that.

Lewis: We did it in a day wasn’t it? You can’t tell!

GIITTV: Shot and edited in a day?

Stephen: Oh no, that took fucking ages.

Lewis: Yeah, about two months later I got around to it.

Stephen: We got to sellotape torn out pieces of the New Scientist to our friend’s face.

Wes: Stick that lizard thing in his mouth.

Stephen: So we might do another video, I don’t know what the concept is.

Wes: We’d sort of half done one, we did one for ‘Leader’-ish. Cause you (Lewis) weren’t around and we needed shots of us all.

Stephen: There are these two lads in Manchester, it’s called Manchester Scenewipe, they just go around filming bands and they did one for us…

GIITTV: Oh, I think, yeah, I saw that.

Stephen: The original idea for that was to play inside Victoria Baths, which is like this old swimming pool, but they wanted £100 for ten minutes or something, so a couple of weeks down we decided to go down and do a guerilla gig in IRA masks…

Wes: Which were just child’s bobble hats.

Stephen: From the Pound Shop.

Wes: Half balaclava, the half-clava.

GIITTV: That’s what the IRA use as well.

Stephen: Yeah, they were big jokers, they had a sense of humour.

Wes: Cheap costume though.

Stephen: The goggles were about £10.

Wes: Only you got them.

GIITTV: You get those, you get those rock and roll dreams, you get the goggles, that’s where all the money goes.

Stephen: I think we should start playing in balaclavas, what do you reckon?

Wes: I think I’d get a bit too hot.

Stephen: Is that the only reason you wouldn’t do it?

Wes: It looks a bit shit as well.

GIITTV: What was the reaction like to the first two albums?

Stephen: From reviewers?

(Lewis stands up to get everyone a drink.)

GIITTV: Do you want me to pause this?

Stephen: It’s allright, he’s not got anything to say. First album it was really nice, we’d never had any reviews before.

Wes: Yeah, it was dead exciting, I just remember going back and listening back and me just becoming a fan myself, I was just dead proud that we’d done something like that, and it was our first experience of doing something like that. The set up we had was really shoddy, wasn’t it…

Stephen: But, even so, in the first band we’d done like that naive thing of paying a producer £120 to record three songs and it sounded absolutely terrible. So we thought, just buy an eight track and do it ourselves and it sounded miles better.

Wes: It got a good reception, didn’t it, the first one, and then The Anchor…

Stephen: Well, The Anchor got loads of reviews and that, it was nice, I was just literally firing out emails and sending out CDs in envelopes daubed in paint to make them stand out.

Wes: But, it’s good though, I’ve done it trying to get my stuff out there a bit and trying to get people to write about it, it’s difficult, so that people actually did as well it’s dead good in itself.

Stephen: I mean, people who liked it seemed to really like it, I think some people just seem to think it’s The Fall and leave it at that.

Wes: It’s frustrating, I don’t even like The Fall.

GIITTV: It’s a default word I think…

Wes: Ranty.

Stephen: If you sing in a Northern accent then people think you’re Mark E. Smith or whatever. But I sort of take comfort in the fact that there’s this guy at my work who’s in his 40s who’s been into The Fall for 25 years and he came to see us and said we sounded nothing like them. So I’m happy with that. It was positive, for the EP and all like, I think that’s it if they’re into the same influences they sort of get it, if they don’t but they’ve vaguely heard of The Fall they’ll say we sound like The Fall.

GIITTV: “Sounds like The Fall. Three stars.”

Stephen: Yeah, yeah. Pretty much, did you read that one then? That sounds like verbatim, pretty much. So, it’s quite nice to get some sort of feedback.

(Lewis returns)

Stephen: We’ve just been slagging you off. Let’s get the real story about Lewis.

GIITTV: Have you found there’s a difficult trying to get people to come to gigs or listen to a CD at all, or do you feel like you’ve been quite lucky?

Stephen: I’ve found like, well, with all of them really, the easiest way to get a review is to send a slightly offensive email to someone, I mean people get like bullshit saying our band’s great emails every day so if someone gets something saying ‘Hey, listen to this you twat’ then it sort of works sometimes.

GIITTV: Well, the right people will respond.

Stephen: Yeah, Lewis said, if they’re gonna not like it, not get that sense of humour, then they’re probably not going to give it a good review anyway.

Wes: But too many of those blurbs that you’ve sent though have found their way into the public description, like Plan B magazine that was literally what you wrote about us for a while.

Stephen: Post-spunk?

Wes: Yeah.

Stephen: And drunk-rock. Yeah, there’s one bizarre review we got that just made up song titles, it was really weird. It was Subbacultcha, he was talking about ‘G + B Trees’, that second one, but she called it ‘Hidden Germanic Devices’, which isn’t even a lyric, it’s ‘Hidden dramatic devices.’ And she said, the best bit was when she said, “the last song ‘Darwin visits Darwen’, which is a better title than it is a song” and it’s not even the fucking title! It’s like, allright, cheers. And that was just off the MySpace, I don’t know what she was talking about.

GIITTV: That’s why you should contact her, and she’ll amend the title…

Stephen: Yeah, it’ll say, “Shit title, shit song.” I mean, like, Bandcamp, that’s been dead good to see how many people have downloaded it and stuff, the EPs been out for like for 8 months and it’s had a hundred downloads, I’d be pretty happy if I sold a hundred CDs.

Wes: Or a hundred people listened to it, like.

Stephen: Even The Anchor’s on a hundred, and that had been on a file sharing network for 18 months.

GIITTV: So, you don’t begrudge the internet community and their ‘music download ways’?

Stephen: No, not at all, I mean I can see why it’s annoying, like it’d be great if people did pay for music…

Wes: Or you’re cutting yourself off completely, especially if you’re a band in our position.

Stephen: I mean, yeah, how would you compete? But with all the releases we’ve got handmade copies, which we’ve sold at gigs and whatever, but if people want to download it they’re going to get hold of it somehow.

GIITTV: Do you personally download or do you buy records the, er, normal way?

Wes: A bit of both.

Stephen: I just buy CDs, I think I just got into the habit because at University the network you couldn’t get on like Napster so I got into buying CDs again after stealing for about five years. Plus I just like having the actual thing.

GIITTV: But owning that makes people listen to a whole record more, with a download they’re more likely to skip through it I guess.

Stephen: Yeah, that’s probably true actually.

Wes: I mean, it just gets like added into what would already be a massive music collection, I always think like, it’s probably just my way of doing it, sometimes I’ll download something if I really like it and I’ll buy the CD because I want to have it…

Stephen: I think one of the difficult things about being in a band now is, maybe for a band like us, probably to get into us you’d have to listen to us four or five times. So, I think most people don’t do that now. And that’s why a lot of the bands in Manchester are bands you can see them once and think ‘Oh yeah, they’re good’, see them a second time and you’re like…

Wes: They’ve got a good single in them.

Stephen: Yeah, exactly, and that’s not like longevity music anymore, bands just come and go, so I quite like the fact that we’ve just carried on and will carry on.

GIITTV: That’s why you should release on obscure formats like…

Stephen: Mini-disc.

GIITTV: Exactly, so people are forced to listen to it all the way through.

Lewis: Or those old 8-track ones, the big chunky cartridges.

Wes: Yeah, it’s a bit like in Manchester at the moment…

Stephen: Cassettes.

Wes: Yeah.

GIITTV: We’ve just done a cassette.

Stephen: Really?


Stephen: Why?

GIITTV: There’s only 25 of them as well.

Stephen: You’re like Wu Lyf.

GIITTV: Yeah, we put them on eBay, we heard about this great band in Manchester.

Wes: In some ways it’s interesting isn’t it… the grind.

Lewis: Folk have been doing tape labels for a while, I remember reading about it when I was in school. In fact that guy from the practice room used to be mates with a guy who did a tape label.

Stephen: I guess with a tape you have to listen to it. You can’t skip it or anything, I like that aspect of it, but it’s like how many people have tape players?

GIITTV: Exactly! I don’t have a tape player, and we’ve got a tape out.

Stephen: How do you listen to your album?

GIITTV: Joel (guitarist in my band) put a fourth track on it that none of us… because we recorded three for it and he put a fourth track on from just our rehearsal recordings, and I’ve got no idea what the fourth track of our tape is. I like the physical formats and I insist, generally, that bands send me physical formats, because I’m a bastard like that, even if I don’t like the music I’m happy I got this. So, I’m really curious as to how the modern music download world is affecting bands, and I think the best way to hear a band is going to be a physical format, well, the best way for someone to get into a band is going to be the physical format, I’m curious because you say The Green Room did really well on bandcamp, The Anchor has done really well on bandcamp, how that effects listeners and how that effects band and whether you’re thinking like, oh we can save money because we don’t bother with physical formats but we can just churn out raw wav files…

Stephen: See, I’ve not done the market research, but I get the impression that people nowadays tend to listen to the majority of music on ipods and whatever… I just listen to music on CDs, but I’m sure that’s not typical of what people – I don’t know really, I’ve not really… a lot of people are listening to music on their commute and whatever…

GIITTV: That’s the worrying thing I think, on a commute is someone going to want to listen to something interesting and difficult…

Wes: Yeah, totally.

GIITTV: Or are they just gonna want Moby playing them along at the same speed as their train.

Wes: Maybe that’s like exacebating the problem of getting flash-in-the-pan bands, it comes up in Manchester where you’ve never seen them gig, or you don’t seen anything them, and all of sudden they just explode on and then you don’t hear of them six months after, because they’ve had a gig where they’ve played a set of five songs, you need double that for an album really, they just sort of disappear after a while there’s that instantaneous sort of…

Stephen: I think that’s just like typical of today’s society and culture, it’s just people get instant gratification and move onto the next thing. Ask us something really controversial.

GIITTV: Do you agree that not everyone is all bad and…

Stephen: No.

GIITTV: Dammit, that was a leading question.

Stephen: Just list celebrities and we’ll say whether they’re cunts.

GIITTV: I’m quite gutted that I put ‘Hothouse’ forward to Tom Robinson (Radio One DJ) for something recently (GIITTV was interviewed for Robinson’s show) and he didn’t play it, that song’s not laden with swear words is it? Or am I just mis-remembering it?

Wes: There’s just the one in ‘Hothouse’ isn’t it?

Stephen: I don’t know, was it on at nine o’clock or something?

GIITTV: Yeah, it was on past nine and they were only playing a clip of a song… you mentioned that a while ago Tom Robinson was kind of behind you guys and playing some tracks and zwip, like that, and I thought, oh I’m quite glad that I put one of your songs forward because he would have to play it.

Stephen: Maybe he vetoed it? I don’t know it’s weird, I’ve found that happens quite a lot, you find someone and they like you and then all of a sudden it stops, bizarre.

GIITTV: Do you think that’s part of the whole, what you were talking about, the instant gratification culture…

Stephen: Yeah, maybe…

Wes: I just think they come and see us gig and then and realise we’re dickheads.

GIITTV: Do you think there’s a different Monster Island on stage and on record?

Wes: Yeah I think so.

Stephen: I think they’ve been going on to and listening to some of the L.A. Monster Island songs like ‘Ride The Tiger’ and all that…

Wes: Live there’s less instruments really, he’d heard the first two albums and the EP, but on our record it’s always going to be a bit softer I think, because you’ve got to ‘song it up’ a bit more to put a bit of interest there like.

Lewis: You don’t want it to be exactly the same.

Wes: And you can fall into a trap of just trying to sound too beasty on a record I think, you’ve got to put some intrigue in there.

Stephen: Yeah, I think promoters when they meet us as well and realise how awkward and unfriendly we are, like they never put us on, yeah, so we’ve tried to make more of an effort recently.

Lewis: I don’t think we’re unfriendly.

Stephen: I don’t think so either.

Wes: (To Stephen) You are, you are definitely.

Stephen: Piss off.

Wes: See. And I’ve known him for sixteen years.

GIITTV: You’re trying to crack the shell, that’s why you’ve lasted this long.

Wes: I’ve been trying to reach out for so long Steve.

Stephen: If I ever just hug you is that it, you’re like “Job done, mate.” Move onto the next twat. Anyway, what was the question?

GIITTV: I’m not sure. I got sidetrack by my thoughts…

Stephen: Tangents.

GIITTV: That’s what I rely on in these interviews unfortunately, that was the good thing on the Smallgang one, they just got carried away slagging off a list of bands that went on for an hour!

Stephen: We can do that.

GIITTV: Oh, if you’re up for that! I’ve got 40 minutes of tape left… Do you have festival aspirations, anything like that?

Wes: I’d love to, it’d be ace.

Stephen: Have we ever played a festival? We want to play… do you know Sounds from the Other City?

Wes: We keep not getting asked to play that.

Stephen: It’s weird that.

Wes: Every year.

Stephen: I’m pretty certain that every band in Manchester has played that apart from us.

Lewis: The thing is, half of the promoters we’ve played for before, if not twice.

Stephen: Yeah, you know that episode of The Simpsons where the policy at the nuclear plant is to make every person employee of the month at least once, and Homer’s convinced it’s going to be him and then it’s the inanimate carbon rod. That’s what I feel like when I look at the Sounds from the Other City line up and we’re still not fucking there.

Wes: But, yeah, festivals would be good, I think that it’s an extension of what we like to do, we love to play gigs all the time, that’s why we come to London to do it, and that’d be like three days of it.

GIITTV: Do you enjoy the recording process as much as gigging? Is there a preference? Or even the rehearsing and coming up with an idea process?

Wes: There’s always a bit of intrigue about the albums because we’ll record our bits and then Stephen goes away and does everything with the guitars and then you come up with a mix of it and stuff so…

GIITTV: You don’t know what he’s putting on top?

Wes: It’s generally gonna be different…

Lewis: Twelve more guitars.

Wes: …guitars, a harmonica, a glockenspiel…

Stephen: You can’t even hear the bass and drums at his point.

Wes: It’s intriguing that bit, I think I always like playing gigs because we’re all together playing at the same time.

Stephen: You can’t really beat a good gig. I mean last night was great.

Wes: Yeah really good.

Stephen: I think the rewards of recording are probably greater… but it’s more of a painful process, not in sort of a wanky tortured artist kind of way…

Wes: Go back to my flat and just sit down for a bit.

Stephen: It’s just like setting shit up and then mixing it.

Wes: It’s really satisfying though afterward when you get to listen to it and stuff.

Lewis: I’ve high hopes for this one… and that one.

Wes: It’s when he says he’s got a backlog, he’s got like fifty tracks waiting.

Stephen: Dunno really, some of them are probably not very good. I mean, that’s the thing like, I don’t know, maybe I’ve got no life to speak of, but I just find myself writing constantly, like, whether it’s music or words or whatever, just because it’s enjoyable. So that’s why I’ve ended up with all these songs that we haven’t recorded, like I say, some of the songs on the new album have been on the blogspot for two years, so it seems strange that, but that’s the thing, all the songs on the EP that came out last year were brand new, so those songs were just pushed to the front of the queue…

Lewis: We haven’t even played some of them live.

Wes: T&Cs.

GIITTV: That’s the thing, I love T&Cs, that’s one of the ones, when we played at Idle Fret, that was one of the ones I hoped you play… you didn’t.

Stephen: It’s because it’s got two guitars on it, we couldn’t pull it off… and it’s really difficult to sing and play. Actually that, funnily enough, is the one song on the EP that’s really old.

Wes: Oh yeah!

Stephen: Pre-dated the first album, didn’t it. (To GIITTV) Are you in marketing as well?


Wes: Oh dear, oh dear.

Lewis: All three of you.

GIITTV: (To Wes) You as well?

Wes: Yeah.

Stephen: We work at the exact same company and we’ve known each other for sixteen years…

Wes: You got me the job there.

Stephen: …and we’re in a band together. I’m surprised we haven’t killed each other. What marketing do you do?

GIITTV: I don’t know particularly.

Stephen: Is it an agency?

GIITTV: It’s like a really small consultancy company, my boss travels around doing training courses for people, and occasionally I do video editing on corporate videos.

Stephen: So it’s not like booking the marketing, it’s more like in the marketing.


Wes: Shut up about work!

GIITTV: That’s what we’re here to talk about, I’m from Marketing Weekly, the past 52 minutes have been building up to this conversation. I think a lot of people in marketing can relate to Monster Island.

Wes: Only the ones that hate it. You get an awful lot of people that seem to love it for some reason.

GIITTV: That’s the thing, I saw my first episode of the Apprentice yesterday, my housemate loves it, and it’s just these are vile hideous people I don’t know why…

Stephen: Our office has some people that are exactly like that, people who think are like fucking…

GIITTV: I don’t understand that mentality, how anyone can exist thinking like that.

Stephen: Well it just makes me laugh, did you see a whole episode? Where at the beginning it talks about Alan Sugar’s like the marketing, the, er, the business elite of this country, and you think if that’s true then…

Wes: We’re in some shit right now. You’ve just got selfish, dumb fuckers…

Stephen: Some of them people I couldn’t…

Lewis: The way they act and the fact that there’s a fucking camera crew in front of them, you think you’d be on your best behavior, y’know…

Stephen: Yeah, sometimes you’re watching it and you realise, you forget there’s a camera crew there…

Lewis: And there must be five guys behind it as well, all booms and organising and stuff, all the people running around, signing forms and shit, why would they run out on the street and do all that bollocks, it’s all ‘impromptu’ and stuff, it’s not they fucking know what they’re doing, all these things have been fucking health and safety checked.

GIITTV: And the people in front of the camera are thinking, “Oh it’s my big chance, I’m going to be a huge cunt.”

Lewis: Exactly! The wrong way about it. The worst thing is I always expect him to be at the end going (points); “You’re a dickhead.” But he ends up saying all these horrible things about them and then, “You’re allright.”

Wes: “He’s got fire, that one!” And he’s just been a prick throughout the entire episode. No, I’ve watched two episodes of it in my life…

Stephen: I watched a bit of it at yours.

Wes: Yeah, that was the second episode I ever saw, never again.

GIITTV: Yeah, I’m never going back.

Wes: (To Stephen) You’re a fan.

Stephen: Yeah, yeah, don’t know why.

Lewis: It’s your, sort of, dirty pleasure.

GIITTV: ‘Hate-porn’ I think.

Wes: There’s a therapy sort of thing to it maybe.

Stephen: Yeah, I don’t know, I just watch it and feel better about myself. The thing is with Alan Sugar he’s not even like a big business man, is he, he may say how working class he is and stuff but then he gets everyone to call him Lord Sugar, it’s pathetic and he tried to stitch up Brian Clough as well, didn’t he.

Lewis: Did he?

Stephen: Yeah, yeah, you know in this whole bribery scandal in the early nineties, he said Brian Clough had taken bribes to lose matches and all that.

Wes: We can always rely on you for a bit of random trivia. Either that or some explanation about the history of a building.

Stephen: Or a car park.

GIITTV: I’ve always got enough questions for a good ten minute interview, but I like to stretch them out to breaking point.

Stephen: You don’t want to ask us what our favourite colour is?

GIITTV: I save those for the re-cap, when we do a follow up interview, after the album comes out so we can plot your trajectory.

(Lewis whistles and makes a gesture of an airplane crashing)

Wes: My favourite colour is blue, and when I was growing up my favourite band were Ace Of Bass…

GIITTV: They were good, yeah.

Wes: …and Simon & Garfunkel.

Lewis: Really, that’s allright.

Wes: Yeah, can’t beat a bit of Simon & Garfunkel.

GIITTV: Can’t beat a bit of Ace Of Bass, ‘I Saw The Sign’… er…

Wes: When I was a 9 year old I would chew on that album (I’m not sure if that’s actually what Wes said, but it’s kind of hard to tell)

Lewis: They’re Nazis.

Wes: Don’t ruin it for me.

Lewis: That’s just a bit of trivia I made up.

Stephen: No, I want to put it on record: Ace Of Bass are Nazis… from Sweden.

GIITTV: They’re fed up with Sweden’s neutrality, after all these years.

Stephen: Yeah, you know…

Wes: This just brings a whole new meaning to that song “I saw the sign.”

Stephen: It was a swastika; “I saw the swastika and it opened up my eyes.”

GIITTV: “All that she wants is a blue eyed baby.”

Wes: That’s good.

GIITTV: That’s why I’m in marketing.

Lewis: Everyone seems to be in marketing these days, half the people I know…

Stephen: You do removals.

Lewis: Yeah, you want to get a real job…

Stephen: Down with people, hanging out with all the common folk.

Lewis: Exactly.

Stephen: The racists and the cross-dressers, you’ve got the racists and the cross-dressers, that seems to be the split.

Lewis: Better than an office though.

Stephen: Yeah, probably.

GIITTV: It’s veiled, I think there’s veiled racism in a lot of the offices…

Stephen: Oh yeah, yeah.

GIITTV: It’s more ‘honest racism’ in… I’ve worked in a lot of factories and it’s ‘good old honest racism.’

Stephen: It’s not hidden, they wear their racism on their sleeve. They wear their swastika on their sleeve.

Wes: It’s been dodgy.

Stephen: We’ve got one unveiled racist in our office, haven’t we.

Lewis: He’s not doing surnames, I know who you mean.

Stephen: This is the environment we’re stuck in, simmering…

Wes: You can see how he’s so bitter now.

GIITTV: Well yeah, at Idle Fret, as soon as you said ‘marketing’ I thought, oh, right yeah…

Stephen: It all makes sense.

‘Catherdral Steps’ is out now, all of Monster Island’s current releases can be obtained via their bandcamp:

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God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.